Dining options fail to meet special dietary needs

Today, I swiped my meal plan card at EVK, and scanned my options only to realize there was nothing for me to eat. Now, I’m just sitting in my room without any food because I’ve run out of frozen meals … again.

Although students have their complaints about Everybody’s Kitchen and Parkside Restaurant, no one has it worse than students who keep a vegetarian, vegan, kosher or halal diet.

Having eaten at the two restaurants every day last year, sometimes multiple times a day, I quickly realized that without the meat, poultry and seafood options, students are victims of eating the exact same thing day after day: cereal, salad, pasta and a few rotating side dishes.

But those aren’t meals. They are the appetizers or sides to an entrée. Vegetarian students cannot live on “vegetarian vegetable soup” and undercooked sweet potatoes alone. And students who keep kosher cannot live on the frozen airplane food provided at Parkside. They need substantial meals.

EVK typically rotates through similar veggie choices every week, making it difficult for vegetarians to live on the same food. The salad bar provides just enough choices so that students can switch up the type of salad they eat every day; otherwise, vegetarians and vegans are just out of luck. Fortunately for vegans, some of the on-campus cafés and restaurants like LiteraTea and The Lot make up for what the dining halls lack with their vegan-baked goods.

For students who keep kosher, the selection is absolutely insufficient. Because of the general absence of kosher food on campus, students may have no choice but to surrender to The Man and stop keeping kosher.

Recently, The Lot market started selling kosher sandwiches; until this semester, however, they were kept in the corner of an obscure refrigerator. I will say that some of the sandwiches look quite delicious, except for the one I actually tried.

Thomas Curry | Daily Trojan

USC does allow Jewish and Muslim students to live in the Parkside apartments and cook for themselves, which expands their meal choices vastly, but students would greatly miss out on the freshman experience if they did not live in the dorms.

Luckily for me, when I go to EVK, I have the option of meat, chicken or fish, depending on the day. Tuesday is chicken nugget day and every other weekday I can choose from meats inside EVK on the serving platters or outside on the grill. Now that’s what I call options.

So why can’t special diet students have an abundant assortment of food like I do?

They can.

Students’ comments on Yelp.com say that UC Berkeley’s dining hall, Crossroads, offers a splendid array of vegetarian choices for students. Not only does it have a vegetarian section, but also it includes vegetarian options in its “World Flavors” and pizza sections. The dining facilities also provide a wide selection of tofu, beans, soups and meat alternatives daily.

If only USC vegetarians and vegans could brag about such choices.

In terms of kosher food, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign opened a kosher dining hall that serves food from Monday through Thursday.

According to the USC Office of Admissions, roughly 8 to 10 percent of USC’s student body is Jewish. With eight out of every 100 students maintaining a kosher diet, providing hot kosher meals in the dining halls might be a smart move for USC Hospitality.

And as an added bonus, providing kosher food would be killing two birds with one stone. Both Jewish and Muslim students can benefit from kosher meals because Islamic halal dietary laws are similar to kosher meat laws. Therefore, students from both faiths can enjoy a filling and religiously acceptable meal together.

Catering to special diet students isn’t that hard to do. If other schools can do it, so can we. The real issue is whether or not our school is willing to make the effort.

Last year, USC Hospitality hosted a vegetarian recipe contest to stimulate the creation of newer and better vegetarian dishes in the dining halls. From what I noticed after the competition ended, the veggie choices did not improve very much, if at all.

Why put in the effort to make a contest if the effect will be minimal?

I like the intentions, USC Hospitality, but let’s get real and start actually making some positive changes and additions to the food on campus for special diet students.

Danielle Nisimov is a sophomore majoring in public relations. Her column “On the SCene” runs Thursdays.

3 replies
  1. JJ
    JJ says:

    “I quickly realized that without the meat, poultry and seafood options, students are victims of eating the exact same thing day after day”.

    So what you’re saying is that by limiting yourself to eating only vegetables, less options are available to you? I’m shocked.

    I can’t eat milk. It makes my visits to the ice cream shop rather limiting. I can complain, or shut up, eat the ice cream and deal with indigestion later.

    The foods you choose to eat are just that: a choice. Eating fish won’t cause an allergic reaction. Perhaps you should put your canine teeth to good use.

  2. Colleen
    Colleen says:


    Thanks for fighting for us vegetarian folk! I must admit, though, that the problems you bring up for vegetarians are nothing new. Does that mean students shouldn’t fight for more meals for vegetarians in the dinning halls? No, probably not– but it does mean that we, as vegetarians, often “get” the reason why it’s hard to find variety in our meals. It’s a choice we make. We could complain forever: there isn’t enough low-fat meal variety, or options for those on a gluten-free diet, or folks that are even just lactose intolerant… but as an adult, I hold myself responsible for finding the food I need to fit my selective diet. It’s a good lesson and– quite frankly– I’d rather money and brain-power be spent on increasing our academics and recruiting world-class professors rather than making sure those with food restrictions (like myself) have ever-increasing and always-rotating food options.

  3. Mark
    Mark says:

    Two points:

    1) Ever hear of supply and demand? Berkely is full of liberal vegan hippies. More vegeterians and vegans makes it more

    2) The comment that “eight out of every 100 students maintaining a kosher diet” is borderline insulting to Jewish people such as myself. Why are you assuming that everybody who is Jewish keeps Kosher? Most Jewish people at USC – I assure you – do NOT keep Kosher. Jews at USC are typically REFORM Jews, who rarely keep Kosher.

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